Stuck with an old HVAC system for your heating and cooling? It's not as uncommon as you might think. HVAC is one of the few areas in which it's perfectly reasonable to find 20, 30, or even 40-year old systems running right across the street from a brand spanking new install.
You rarely see the same behavior with televisions, cars, stoves, refrigerators, or, really, any other common appliance. There are some practical reasons for this trend. First, a lot of HVAC systems are built to operate for decades, so it's not uncommon to find them doing just that. Second, HVAC systems are an out-of-sight and out-of-mind technology. There's no "rush to upgrade" tendency like there is with cars or televisions.
With that in mind, there are some really good reasons to upgrade to a new HVAC system even before your current unit breaks down completely.
#10. Your Old HVAC system just doesn't work anymore.
The biggest reason anyone invests in a new HVAC system is because the old one quit working for one reason or another. That being said, like a car, it can be possible to repair a furnace or air conditioner, and many people make that choice. However, it's not uncommon for a repair bill to be more costly than purchasing a new unit outright or close enough as to be a negligible consideration.
For example, an air conditioner has, basically, two main components: the compressor and the coil. The compressor is the likely point of failure, since it does all the work. Replacing a compressor isn't that unusual. Replacing a rusted out coil, however, can be much more of a hassle.
If both components fail at the same time, you're essentially going to be buying a completely new air conditioner and installing it in an old HVAC shell. At that point, there's no reason not to just get a new air conditioner.
The same can be true of a furnace if the heat exchanger fails. It's the main heart of the furnace, and most are designed to run for decades. Many companies even give warranties specifically for the heat exchanger. A ruined heat exchanger out of warranty could be a good indicator you need a new furnace in general.
#9. The outdated coolant in your old air conditioner is killing the Earth's ozone layer.
Any new residential air conditioner or heat pump is supposed to be running on R-410A refrigerant. R-410A is chlorine-free and safe for the atmosphere. Unlike a lot of previous generation refrigerants, R-410A doesn't hurt the ozone layer.
If you're using an old old HVAC, you may be using a system reliant on R-22 or an even older coolant. It's virtually certain that the emissions your outdated air conditioner generates contribute to the Earth's ozone layer slowly breaking down.
This is bad. The ozone layer protects us from massive amounts of space radiation. Which is good. Because it's not even the fun radiation that turns you into a superhero. All it does is give you cancer.
While the law does not require anyone to upgrade to a new, non-ozone destroying air conditioner, it's the responsible thing to do. Fortunately, you don't have to sacrifice comfort, since R-410A works just as effectively as the old refrigerants ever did. Plus, older refrigerants are now rare and highly expensive. Filling an R-22 air conditioner can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
#8. Constant breakdowns cost your more money than a new system would.
A warranty is great, since it means any repairs will cost you a minimum amount of money. Of course, a lot of air conditioners and furnace units can operate well beyond their warranty terms. If you get a breakdown when the warranty is expired, the repair costs come out of your pocket.
For a lot of minor repairs, that's not a big deal. A $200 repair bill on your furnace isn't great, but it pales compared to the cost of a new unit. Now, that being said, a $200 repair bill every few months or every single year can really start to add up. It doesn't take too very long for the constant cycle of breakdown and repair to start to eat into your wallet. At some point it just makes sense to get rid of a breakdown-prone unit and invest in a new one.
What is that point?
It's hard to say. Everyone is going to have a different financial tolerance level. Consider this. Say you have an old HVAC that costs you around $150 per year to maintain. That's not really a lot, right?
In 5 years that annual repair bill would have cost you $750. Double that to 10 years and you could easily have paid for a new, complete split system that wouldn't cost you every year in maintenance. The new complete split system would also be more energy efficient, so you'd actually pay less every month in utilities.
The new system would also be covered by warranty, so any repair or maintenance wouldn't cost you anything.
#7. You have a mismatched air handling unit and condenser.
Many people heat or cool their homes with a split system installation. In case you don't know, a split system consists of an interior air handling unit or blower connected to an exterior condenser. There are a lot of advantages to this type of installation which are beyond the scope of this article.
The main thing we want to talk about is making sure you have a properly matched condenser and evaporator. Improperly matched systems can be a big problem. They can:
- Provide inferior air comfort.
- Reduce operating efficiency, and cost you more each month.
- Lead to serious mechanical failure and breakdown.
If you discover you're operating an improperly matched split system, that is a problem you need to fix fast. You can either replace one of the systems with a proper match for the other, or replace both with a brand new, complete split system. Whether it is an old HVAC or not, running with a mismatched condenser and evaporator is a sure recipe for overpaying one way or another.
#6. Your old system won't function with a programmable thermostat.
A programmable thermostat is a nice way to accurately control the heating and air conditioning in your home. Most allow you to program how your HVAC unit operates in line with your lifestyle needs. For example, many programmable thermostat users reduce HVAC operation during periods of the day when no one is home. This allows them to save money and running hours on their unit.
Many old HVAC units might not be designed to operate with a programmable thermostat, since the technology simply didn't exist when those HVAC units were manufactured.
Sometimes a trained HVAC technician can integrate the two, but it's not always possible. If you're still relying on an outdated system, you might be wasting a lot of energy and money that a good programmable thermostat could help you save.
#5. The fuel your old HVAC uses just isn't that common anymore or is inconvenient to acquire.
Furnace units reliant on combustion heating have been the primary residential heating system in North America for decades due to their heating capability and capacity in severe cold. Despite their longevity, many older furnaces were built to use fuel sources that are becoming increasingly uncommon in the domestic market.
For example, many households once relied on coal furnaces to heat their homes. As you might imagine, coal is becoming an increasingly uncommon fuel source for residential heating, but so is fuel oil. Oil-fired furnaces once dominated large parts of the American market. With rising oil prices, oil-fired furnaces may rapidly become brutally expensive compared to other alternatives like natural gas or propane.
If your home still uses a coal or oil-fired furnaces, you may want to consider upgrading sooner rather than later. Both fuel types are viable in the near term, but seem unlikely to remain cost-effective for much longer.
#4. Your current air conditioner warranty expired a long, long time ago.
A warranty does a couple things. Most importantly, from the manufacturer's point of view, the warranty assures the customer that the product in question will last for at least the warranty term. If the product goes bad in a 5-year or 10-year warranty, the customer has recourse to get the product repaired or replaced.
From the customer's point of view, a warranty can be a major component of future financial security. If the product fails unexpectedly, the customer won't have to shell out a lot of money to get the system functioning again. Basically, it's peace of mind.
Now, if you're currently using an old HVAC with an out-of-date warranty, you shouldn't replace the unit just for that reason when the unit is otherwise functioning effectively. However, expired warranty protection on a unit that is showing signs of failure should be a good motivation to upgrade.
#3. Your interior air comfort is inconsistent. Some rooms are cold, some are clammy, and some stay uncomfortable no matter what.
A modern central heating and air system uses a network of air ducts to effectively distribute heated or cooled air around a house. If properly installed, an HVAC system should cool, heat, and control humidity in all parts of a house effectively. If this isn't the case, something has gone wrong in the system.
One major reason a homeowner experiences improper heating or cooling can be attributed to improper unit sizing. The HVAC industry is not a one-size-fits-all business, nor is it a "bigger-is-better" business. By that we mean that an oversized air conditioner or furnace is as bad a choice as one too small for your needs. What you want is the correct
size, not the biggest size.
A properly sized air conditioner or furnace is going to give you good air comfort, good operating efficiency, and maintain a steady level of humidity control. If you have a unit too big or too large for your home, you're going to have a problem in one of these areas.
Basically, if you're using an improperly sized old HVAC, you should replace it with an air conditioner or furnace sized right for you.
#2. Interior humidity is becoming a major problem.
Modern air conditioner technology dehumidifies your home as a normal part of its operating process. As a matter of fact, the air conditioning technology we use today was first developed as an attempt to dehumidify buildings in the early 20th century.
If you've got a lot of humidity in your house during the summer months, your old HVAC may not be functioning properly. Most homeowners with a properly sized air conditioner should get reasonable dehumidification without the need for a dedicated dehumidifier.
Now, it's certainly true that not all excess interior humidity can be put at the feet of an improperly sized or poorly functioning air conditioner. That being said, if you've never had a problem with interior humidity in prior years, and one suddenly appears, checking your air conditioner isn't a bad idea.
If the problem is the air conditioner, it might be time to upgrade.
#1. Operating inefficiently means you pay an arm and a leg every month on cooling or heating.
Energy prices are getting higher. There are a lot of reasons for this trend, but those are far beyond the scope of this article. It should suffice to say, however, that global statistics show no indication energy costs are going to drop in the near or long term. Higher costs for energy seem here to stay.
What does that mean for homeowners who want to maintain their current standard of living?
It means we're going to have to make more out of less. The absolute best way to do that is by leveraging high efficiency technology to keep our air comfort while we use even less energy than we used too.
Here at Ingram's Water & Air Equipment, we believe the best reason to upgrade your old HVAC heating and cooling system is to take advantage of the latest energy efficiency technology. These new systems will save you money right now, and for years into the future of high energy costs to come.
More Questions or Comments About Your Old HVAC?
Do you have more questions or comments about the old HVAC system that just barely keeps you comfortable all year long? Let us know here, reach out to us via social media, call us at 270-575-9595, or message us directly here